Brutal, military style mass killing of mountain hares on Scottish grouse moors

Press release from OneKind / League Against Cruel Sports / Lush (29/3/18):


Extraordinary footage from an investigation carried out by OneKind, League Against Cruel Sports and Lush has revealed the brutal, military style mass killing of Scotland’s mountain hares on grouse moors. Campaigners supported by Chris Packham are calling on the Scottish Government to take immediate action and end the killing.

Mountain hare shooting is one of many country sports offered by Scottish game estates, and grouse moor managers also organise culls of the animals in an effort to protect red grouse for sport shooting. Mass killing of mountain hares is just one part of the intensification of grouse moor management in Scotland.

OneKind Director Harry Huyton said:

Our investigation has revealed that instead of restraining themselves, as the Scottish Government has asked them to do, some estates seem to be at war with mountain hares. We filmed large groups of armed men moving around the mountains in convoys, killing hares and filling their pick-ups with dead animals as they go. In one particularly harrowing scene a hare is maimed by a gun and then apparently killed by the gunman’s dog, demonstrating the serious suffering caused by themass killing of hares on grouse moors.

These extraordinary scenes of carnage have no place in the Scottish countryside. The voluntary approach has failed, and the Scottish Government must take urgent action if it is to prevent further killing before the open season starts once again in August. We have written an open letter calling for an end to the killing, and I urge everyone who values our wildlife alive rather than dead to sign it“.

Ruth Peacey, naturalist and filmmaker for Lush said: “We knew this was taking place and, although horrific to witness, it was important to gain video footage of these culls to provide evidence to those who doubted. It was the military approach to killing that shocked our team the most, and I hope that all the footage will be used to bring about changes to provide better protection for mountain hares and stop these large-scale culls“.

Chris Packham, conservationist, naturalist and TV presenter said: “It is clear that self-restraint is not preventing large-scale culls of mountain hares on grouse moors and, as such, the law should be changed before we lose another iconic species from our uplands“.

Director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland, Robbie Marsland added: “The sickening irony of the mayhem we saw on those mountainsides is that it is done in the hope that it will increase the number of red grouse to be shot for entertainment.

Mass killing of mountain hares is just one part of the intensification of grouse moor management in Scotland. Any animal that appears to threaten the red grouse is targeted by traps and snares or shot. Threatened species like hen harriers are mysteriously absent from some grouse moors. Unplanned tracks and roads scar the hillsides, anti-worming chemicals are left unattended, lead shot pollutes the land and heather is burned off on a landscape scale – all to ensure that one species will thrive. And then that species is shot for entertainment.

No one seems to be quite sure, but it looks like getting on for up to 19% of Scotland is a grouse moor. In the context of a national debate about land reform we believe now is the time to ask if this is how we want our land to be used“.

Mountain hare killing is not monitored in Scotland, however an estimate from an SNH study suggests that 25,000 mountain hares were killed in 2006/7. This is understood to be between 5-14% of the total population. It is thought that approximately 40% of those killed are shot for sport shooting, and 50% as part of organised culls.

The charities are calling on the Scottish Government to impose an all-year round close season on hare shooting until a review by Professor Werrity on the issue concludes.


Read and sign OneKind’s open letter calling for an end to the mass killing of mountain hares here

In response to this new footage, a Scottish Government spokesperson has said they are “seeking urgent meetings with relevant stakeholders, while considering all available options for additional protections“.

It’s not clear what the Government hopes to achieve by conducting “urgent meetings”. The grouse moor owners don’t see there’s a problem and as long as the mass culling of hares continues to be a legal pastime, they are obviously going to continue to tell everyone the best way to conserve mountain hares is to shoot them in the face.

However, the following conversation has just taken place in the Scottish Parliament:

Alison Johnstone MSP (Scottish Greens):

New footage of the sickening slaughter of mountain hares is reported by the BBC today. Has the fact that this evidence comes from well regarded animal welfare groups finally convinced the Scottish government that voluntary restraint is sadly lacking on too many shooting estates. When and with whom will the urgent meetings that the government now seeks take place and when will the Scottish government introduce new legal protection for this fabulous, iconic animal?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon:

I share Alison Johnstone’s concern and anger because its evident in her voice that some of the images that we’re seeing on our screens today there is real public concern and we share the public concern about this iconic species on the Scottish mountains.

Large-scale culling of mountain hares could put the conservation status at risk and that is clearly unacceptable.

I know that the pictures that she refers to will be distressing to many people.

These meetings will take place with all relevant stakeholders, landowner groups, gamekeepers and environmental organisations.

I want to be very clear today that the Government will be exploring all available options to prevent the mass culling of mountain hares and one of those options is of course legislation and a licencing scheme

What we are seeing is not acceptable and that is a very clear message that goes from the government today”.


70 thoughts on “Brutal, military style mass killing of mountain hares on Scottish grouse moors”

  1. For every action in Scotland that makes me proud to be Scottish there is an equal and opposite reaction that makes me angry and ashamed to be Scottish. It is our shame. Scotland’s shame. We blight our landscape and kill our creatures for profit. These culls can’t continue forever. 19% of our land is grouse moor? If that is true we need to wake up. On balance I have always supported those who hunt for food but we need to end the mass killing for sport and profit.

  2. If this is a current film, then they are working on wiping out the Mountain Hare entirely, as this is the beginning of the breeding season!

  3. No need to cull the hare’s, it is done to control ticks which are grouse parasites so all done to keep the banker’s happy who pay lot’s of money to shoot grouse.

  4. From the BBC Scotland website today. Tim Baynes, director of the Scottish Moorland Group, said: “This is how it has to happen.”

    We shall see about that.

  5. Yet more proof of an out of control killing industry. It is not sport, it is not for sustenance. Killing for killing’s sake.

    This is the idiocy of those that run the shooting industry to cater for the blood-thirsty rich.


  6. The reaction to any footage of killing always surprises me , what does Joe public think killing looks like? What do they think we have been banging on about for years ? Obviously they don’t think , until the full horror invades their sitting room ( and this was a VERY tame piece of footage.)
    This looks like the way ahead well done Onekind . Lets get more and more images out there of the disgusting ,bloody, pointless, cruelty meted out to our wildlife by these cuddly rosy faced country folk.

  7. Lets not forget that the mass killing of hares also removes the food supply for raptors such as golden eagle and hen harrier – there’s another agenda at work here…Well done for getting this as the second item on Reporting Scotland – and for getting condemnation directly from the First Minister.

    1. I think the golden eagle food issue to be the main driving force behind this mass killing of mountain hares. I have though this for years.

  8. Now they are mass culling mountain hare to protect the red grouse… a few years time these warped killers will be arguing that they will need mass culling of red grouse to protect the mountain hare! They just want to kill a lot of things because they like doing it and boasting about it. Their wee hobby needs to stop and we can make this happen.

  9. I am a keen hillwalker and photographer and during January and February saw only 4 hares in over 150 miles of walking hills in Deeside and Upper Strathdon. Land managers in this area have totally ignored a call for restraint and now we are left with many hills in Deeside devoid of hares. It is disappointing that Scottish Natural Heritage actually encourage this culling in certain areas giving legitimacy to this slaughter. I think it is imperative that a ban on culling hares is put in place immediately until a proper study is made on populations and distribution.

  10. Inspired by the SGA statement which invents “dwarf woodland” and with due respect to the late, great, Ken Dodd, I believe we should now refer to the SGA as… “The Diddy Men”! The more i think about it, the more apt it becomes! Comedy trousers and nonsense!

  11. Don’t worry I hear NWCU are on the case and uniting partners in a collaborative effort to target offenders and protect the extermination of an iconic species……….sorry back to reality this is wishful thinking.

    Sterling work by charities and NGO,s

    Well do Onekind, LACS and Lush for highlighting this utterly disgusting activity.

  12. Come on everybody. I’ve just joined OneKind at the letter link above (in the sentence after ENDS). They have less than 2,000 members and surely deserve our support.

    1. They certainly do. As well as being a south of the border OneKind member, I bought my Christmas cards from them too – showing a superb image of a Mountain Hare!

      There were some very brave operators out there, getting that video footage of that lot playing at soldiers must have taken some nerve.

  13. Well done and massive thanks to all involved for once again bringing what is happening in the environmental third world countries that include the uplands of Scotland and Northern England to the attention of the public,
    Mountain Hare shooting is on a level par with canned shooting, these animals will sit tight believing their camouflage will protect them rather than run away, this is not sporting this is depraved.
    BASC your silence is deafening, isn’t it time you grew a pair of testicles and confronted your own team, we are talking a game species here to all purpose and intentions being eradicated from vast area’s, this to your sport is equivalent to or even worse than the Aussie ball tampering , However at least the Aussie’s stood up and had the balls to condemn the wrong doer’s

  14. Oh come on get real. All mammals have to be culled to maintain a healthy program. If it’s effect on the hares is so dramatic then how come they can continue to do it year on year?
    These creatures eat off many tonnes of Heather per year and can in some instances lead to overgrazing and therefore loss of Heather cover on our much loved moors. Eagles do eat them but there certainly isn’t enough to eat vehicle backs full of them!

    1. Funny that Eagles, Hares and Heather all survived for thousands of years until ‘humans’ messed about with them.

      1. “Oh come on get real. All mammals have to be culled to maintain a healthy program” A classic line, yet in vast areas of the northern hemisphere predator and prey species co exist and have done for millennia with no interference at all, why not throw out your next line of defence that always comes out,” there would be nothing there if these lands were left unmanaged ” strange before deforestation and over grazing these lands were Caledonian forests that were many times more bio diverse than what we have today, A national disgrace controlled by the need for greed brigade

    2. These ‘creatures’ eat off many tons of heather per year. Ok, so that would be the same heather you want to burn is it? Not enough eagles???? Or for that matter, corvids, gulls, Hen Harriers, falcons, stoats, weasels, foxes, etc etc.
      If you left all the wildlife alone, maybe, just maybe, nature would strike a balance. Oh, yes, and in doing so, they wouldn’t burn all the amphibians or insects either.
      And we’d have cleaner water, and the tourism would go up as it did on the west coast.
      Leave our bloody wildlife alone. It’s not yours for ‘sport’, it’s ours, all of ours, to enjoy for what it is.

    3. Well thats the point Chris – if the grouse botherers hadn’t wiped out so many eagles etc. over the years there would be plenty of BOPS, SCottish WIldcats etc. to curb the hare pop

    4. Stead, so many false assumptions but here is a start.
      ‘If it’s effect on the hares is so dramatic then how come they can continue to do it year on year?’
      How long have quad bikes been around, not long so you can’t claim historic evidence.
      Where is your evidence that these large scale cull shave been going on for ages. If you know you must have evidence, right?
      Because we are seeing truck loads of dead hares is not an argument for its need. It is a defence of an insanely badly ‘managed’ ecosystem, a viscous eco-circle. If there are high numbers of hares it is because of the eradication of all top predators. Killing because of killing in order to have an artificial number of grouse to kill.
      There are already areas of the Cairngorms where the Mountain Hare is absent. I think i will trust Roy Dennis who says ‘“Numbers are drastically down…The decline is very noticeable over the last 20 years on intensely managed grouse moors. I think it’s dreadful. There’s far too much killing of mountain hares.”’
      and Adam Watson ‘“As a very rough conservative approximation, I would say that spring abundance of adults has been reduced by at least five to a hundred-fold on most of these moors,” he told the Sunday Herald. In some areas hares have been completely wiped out.’
      The video is the first step and Roy and Adam’s observations are the result. Forgive me for taking the experience of highly distinguished scientists over yours.
      The reason this is referred to as a massacre is not for hyperbole. Hares have no burrows so it is very easy to wipe out all the adults from an area and that is obviously what we are seeing in these videos and in previous photographs. Wipe out the adults and the population can be eradicated very quickly.
      I am sure it was said of the Passenger Pigeon not long before they were extinct that ‘they must be doing well otherwise how come i can kill thousands of them.’

  15. This is an outrage against life and should be outlawed without hesitation. It is grotesque, barbaric and unnecessary. All wrapped up neatly under the usual guise of ‘ conservation neccessity’ and just an excuse for those who actually enjoy killing. Utterly vile. How CAN we call ourselves a civilised Society when innocent lives of Sentient Beings are just trashed. Outrageous.

    1. What is your hobby Diana?
      Maybe I should think of some reason to stop you doing whatever it is – and I bet I could!
      Life is free and people who don’t like what other people do shouldn’t interfere.
      It’s mans own choice what he enjoys and he doesnt.
      Feel free to let me know your interests or hobby’s and I’ll see what I think

      1. Yep… mass killing is just a hobby, its good to get that admission.. so not that important…lets just stop it now and encourage the sociopaths to take up some other wee pastime… maybe a short course in “flower arranging for the angry” might open up some new horizons?

        Its fantastic watching the rabble descending to type on facebook! They are ripping themselves apart so viciously that poor old Bert has been moved to shout! So entertaining I have had to copy Fergus Ewing into the chat so he can see what his pals are really like!

      2. I suppose what you mean by ‘life is free’ is that it’s free if your a human but not if your an animal.
        Should we not ‘interfere’ if we see someone abusing a child, robbing a pensioner, setting fire to a property. Should everyone be free to commit whatever crimes they want?

        1. No not suggesting for one minute that crime is ok!
          Let me put it another way…
          If I went fishing I would be catching helpless fish that all they are trying to do is survive by eating. I get a bite strike the sharp hook right in to the poor fish’s mouth,drag it around for ten minutes until it’s exhausted and then maybe put it in a net for the rest of the day until I have fulfilled my pleasure of hurting and dragging fish around and then put it back in to the water for the whole process to happen again the next day!
          I have nothing against fishing and I fish myself but it is something that man did long before the PlayStation or tv came along. How come thousands of people can fish and everybody is happy for them to do so?
          Fishermen kill thousands of head of wildfowl with waste line, hooks etc. They are not tarnished thick and sadistic!!
          Let people get on with what they enjoy as long as it’s not crime or child abuse etc.

          1. Chris,

            Crime is an interpretation of right and wrong according to current standards of society, decent or not. Mass killing of hares and many millions of “game” birds is a left over from archaic times, it is not necessary, the meat is often worthless and toxic.

            If a shooter were to go and take an animal or bird for the table, fine, I can cope with that. What is the excuse when so much is just waste?

            The anglers certainly get it the neck when it comes to the carnage they cause to wildlife (fish, mammal or bird) and anglers want to cull things that eat fish. Top of their list is cormorants, followed by goosanders, otters, seals and very oddly vegetarian beavers. At times even canoeists are on their hit list.

            This is not a lot different to the shooting industry where all predators (including protected species) are on their hit list. If they cannot get a licence to kill it, they go and do it illegally.

            Why does the shooting industry want to destroy life, including grouse, pheasant and partridge? Just to say they’ve had a great day killing the birds (or maiming and scaring). Then what do they do, having shot dozens of birds with irresponsible use of toxic lead shot? Some may take a few to eat but most are wasted in stink pits or dumped illegally. This reduces the value, to killing for the sake of it.

            Concrete Jungle dwellers? They know what your type are doing to the countryside along with breeding many millions of birds to shoot. The grouse moor owners wreck the natural moorlands, the blanket bogs are drained, the trees have long since gone (probably before your time), the heather is burned and anything other than grouse does not count.

            The Amazon is another situation caused by greed in big corporations where profit is all.

            As for hobbies, when a hobby becomes something that destroys and changes habitats and the life that once thrived there, it has to go or at least brought back under control.


            1. Sadly you’re not wrong about the angling community. I had heard that Bodenham Lake Nature Reserve in Herefordshire had been hit with the illegal killing of a barn owl and had reported the suspicious deaths of two otters in Wellington. I went to their facebook page and on the relevant post found a comment that ‘Sad about the barn owl being shot, not so worried about the otters being found dead though. These little fella’s will destroy a nature reserve and a fishery over time. Be aware.’ – yeah this was posted on a FB page for a nature reserve, the otter is conveniently becoming a furry buzzard any supposed reduction in another species is being pinned on it. There have been a growing number of suspicious deaths and ‘disappearances’ of otters, one was found up north as apparent road kill, when they did an autopsy they found it had been shot. The general lack of ecological intelligence and appreciation of wildlife within the angling community is horrendous – glad I got out of it.

          2. CRIME, as in the killing of protected species.
            It’s like talking to a child.
            However, you are right about fishing. Interesting that you call it ‘hurting and dragging around’ but admit to doing it yourself. Just another bloodsport.
            Good change of subject though.

  16. The whole industry and most people within it are rotten to the core. Nothing but a bunch of sadistic criminals driven by money.

    1. People who are against it are nothing but a bunch of concrete jungle dwellers with no idea what has gone on in to our landscape to make it what it is today, it’s the same as man encroaching in to the jungle in the Amazon interfering with the tribes way of life. Townies are doing exactly the same here.

      1. Don’t dare try and pull that townie crap , my Grandfather was a farmer I was brought up on a farm , I was mad keen on shooting because I knew nothing else . I have seen at first hand the wanton cruelty , the sadistic behaviour all for no purpose other than a moronic love of killing , I was ostracized by idiots like you .Anyone who spoke up against the barbaric behaviour was described as “soft” people who did it were of course “hard”. The fact is that people who take pleasure in this are brainless idiots and you are one of them . And when you are called out you hide behind this shit about townies interfering with the countryside like you are some kind of conservationists and custodians. You are not, you are a bunch of thick arses who get a perverted kick out of killing things .You would perhaps be a little less obnoxious if you conceded this, then again perhaps not.

        1. I’m certainly not thick!
          As I said earlier why not let people do what they enjoy? Just because you think it’s cruel and we are all thick, that’s fine to have an opinion but don’t stop something that has been done for generations just because you don’t like it!
          What’s your hobby?

          1. Wife beating has been done for ages following your argument you would defend this too .
            I do not wish to discuss my hobbies with some one with your degenerate opinions.

          2. I used to shoot pistol. Can’t anymore because public opinion decided that was unacceptable. Some people like dog fighting or badger baiting, doesn’t mean they should be allowed to.

            I have nothing against people shooting and hunting, but the industrialised, maximised production of grouse at the expense of all else needs to change.

        1. Who, exactly, does Mr Stead think he’s kidding? In an age where the evidence is available for all to see, does he, and his “tribe” of ignoble savages, really believe that they can continue to pull the wool over our eyes? Or, are they just suffering from a bad case of pseudologia fantastica?

      2. I do love that sort of reply. I’ve lived in the country most of my life. I also have plenty of idea what has gone on to make our landscape what it is today. Usually the eradication of the natural habitat in the name of profits for the landowners.

      3. My dad grew up in a village. He joined the forces and went away, ’39-’46. Demobbed and back in the UK, there were no jobs in his village that would pay enough for him to marry and raise a family. He moved to a town. I guess many more did the same.

        Many of us are but a generation or two away from the country. Don’t try that one.

  17. Its disappointing that the estate is not named, is there some legal reason why? It should be named and shamed.

  18. Interesting reading in Werritty, A., Pakeman, R.J., Shedden, C., Smith, A., and Wilson, J.D. (2015). “Although, tick control measures can sometimes improve grouse chick production (Laurenson et al. 2003), there is no clear evidence that mountain hare culls serve to increase red grouse densities, and in any case both ticks and louping-ill virus persist when and where alternative tick hosts such as red deer are present at even low densities (Gilbert et al., 2001, Harrison et al., 2010).”


    “Given that culling can reduce mountain hare densities to extremely low levels locally (Laurenson et al., 2003), and population trends are poorly known despite the species being listed under the Habitats Directive, the case for widespread and intensive culling of mountain hares in the interests of louping-ill control has not been made.”

    So its just for sport or to reduce prey availability then? Maybe its tradition and gives a gamie something to do at a quiet time of year?

    I expect Prof Werritty will remember his 2015 work when he reports to Government on grouse moor management as requested by Roseanna Cunningham.

  19. I understand how it can come across seeing a vehicle full of dead animals, however winter culling of hares has gone on for many years without any significant drop in numbers,(therefore keeping the population managed, not wiping them out). The black and white of it as far as studies are concerned, is that a very minimal and narrow amount of research has been done, especially in strong tick populated areas. There is an undoubtable link between consistent tick numbers and infested moorland mammals, whether that is, red deer, sheep or the forementioned hare. If you were to handle a small sample of these hares it would show that for itself, in the quantity of ticks present. I concede that this won’t be replied to sensibly, or with even the slightest amount of time to consider some of the truth written. And as just another thick countryman I realise any information from ‘the opposition’ will no doubt be ridiculed. But you can only read so much one sided information without feeling the need to comment, all be it in vain.

    1. So ‘winter culling of hares has gone on for many years with no significant drop in the numbers’. If so, why bother doing it?
      The reason that the comments on here are generally one-sided is that they mirror the very one-sided issue involved – the continued breaking of the law and unscientific and uncontrolled ‘managed’ processes such as the culling of hares, the natural food supply of several raptor species.

    2. That would be a very comprehensive list of problem causing tick vectors if it included the red grouse. The maintenance of an unnaturally high density of red grouse makes more than a significant contribution to the tick problem. (As does the maintenance of a uniform tick friendly habitat.) The mountain hare is simply a scapegoat, used to cover up for the destruction of a naturally regulating habitat.

    3. Rob. This blog would not exist if it were not for the seemingly industrial-scale of contempt being shown by many in the game bird shooting industry towards wildlife legislation, especially with regards to protected raptor species. You have had years to put your house in order yet have chosen not to do so. It has also become clear (and you should have picked up on this too by now) that a much wider public is now beginning to take more than a passing interest in what is going on in ‘their’ countryside. Yet, the killing goes on relentlessly and the likes of the ‘Bile Brothers.’ continue to peddle their rubbish, as do others I would have expected to show a little more intelligence, Might I suggest to you that, instead of coming on this blog and attempting to patronise us as if we are all blinkered idiots, incapable of an intelligent response to your post, you go away and actually do something about the mess you have got yourselves into because you are embroiled in a fight you cannot – and will not- win. Some damage limitation might be achieved were you to publicly call-out and ostracize the estates who are, frankly, going to ultimately destroy you. I simply do not believe that you people do not know who they are, perhaps you not personally Rob, but there are people who read this blog who do. Furthermore, you cannot take umbrage at people questioning the morality of your hare culling operations or even hope to justify them, when eagle after eagle ‘disappears’ over the moors with regular monotony, as do harriers, peregrines, etc. etc. Attitudes have to change Rob! You may have already lost DGS – do you want to lose it all? Attitudes of people who have had no interest in your ‘sport’ thus far are changing and more are becoming aware. Coming up to Easter is a stupid time to go shooting ‘Bunnies’. The Press will no doubt be waiting for you next year!

    4. Rob. I expect that the people who enjoyed badger bating and cock fighting tried to use the ‘but it’s being going on for many years’ argument when those ‘sports’ were banned in the nineteenth centrury. If shooters will not wake up to how public opinion is moving on these issues then they will find their ‘sport’ banned, too. And shooters will have no one but themselves to blame.

    5. So far we not not seen any of the ‘truth’ you mention. What are the objectives of the cull in terms of the relationship of hare numbers and tick (never mind hare conservation) ? From the typically crude approach taken it looks as if complete removal or ‘wiping them out’ is exactly what is intended. That would seem logical in terms of tick and is presumably the reason for estates fencing out red deer from grouse moors on a very large scale for the same reason. So what does ‘keeping them managed’ mean ?
      You are obviously annoyed at the polarised nature of the issue. That is what happens where one side has always resorted to criminal solutions, while denying the evidence and calling for ‘partnership’ working which it consistently abuses. The invective directed at grouse shooting is inevitable and justified and only reflects the contempt in which grouse shooting is held.

    6. Gates, what you say may or not be true. You have no real science to support your claims so a reasonable person would want a moratorium until the true facts are clear. I can bet you don’t want that, so please don’t hide behind fake reasonableness.

  20. Rob Gates,Jimmy, what about not killing the natural predators that already occur in the area such as eagles, foxes etc..

  21. It is a great pity the the moorland killers cannot succumb to diseases carried by ticks, Lymes is a debilitating illness. I would wish on most folk but I have my limits….

    Ticks are a natural and growing problem in Britain due to warming of our climate.


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